Archive for College

More Words Than You’d Expect on the Cubs’ 10th-Round Pick

A few days ago, I shared KATOH’s thoughts on the college players who were drafted (and not drafted) in this year’s amateur draft. There were hundreds of them. Many of the players with very good projections went in the first round, including Nick Senzel, A.J. Puk and Cody Sedlock. But the player with the very best KATOH projection fell all the way to the 10th round. The end of the 10th round. That player is Dakota Mekkes, whom the Cubs drafted with the 314th-overall pick out of Michigan State.

Mekkes was straight up filthy this past season. Pitching in the Big 10, Mekkes struck out a remarkable 96 batters in just 57 innings without surrendering a single home run. The catch is that he pitched exclusively in relief — though he wasn’t used like a typical reliever, and actually pitched more like a starter in some cases. Mekkes averaged over two innings per appearance in relief, and frequently threw many more than that. Most notably, he tossed six shutout innings in an extra-inning game against Maryland. Unlike most college relievers, he wasn’t a one-inning guy, which helps explain why KATOH likes him more than most relievers.

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Generating Statistical Comps for First-Round College Hitters

Last week, I published KATOH projections for the players who were drafted out of college in this year’s amateur draft*. As much as I love my projections, they only can only tell you so much about a player. Knowing a player’s projected WAR over a specified period is interesting, but it’s only one number. It simply tells you where a player falls on a spectrum of “good” and “bad.” It tells you nothing about how that player might accumulate those wins, or what he might look like doing it.

*Day one here, day two here, and day three here.

To put some faces to some of the hitters drafted in the first round, I generated some statistical comps using weighted Mahalanobis Distance calculations to college players since 2002. This analysis considers offensive statistics only, so the comps have not been filtered at all by position. The WAR columns refer to that player’s WAR through age 27.

You may notice that Mariners first-round pick Kyle Lewis isn’t included here. Lewis played in a non-elite conference, which has produced very few big leaguers historically. This made generating a KATOH-style projection for him less than straightforward.

*****

2. Nick Senzel, IF, Cincinnati

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 2.0

Nick Senzel’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Player Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Scott McClanahan 1.5 No MLB
2 Josh Donaldson 1.4 8.8
3 Russ Adams 1.7 -0.5
4 Stephen Cardullo 1.3 No MLB
5 Shane Robinson 1.4 0.4
6 Ryan Braun 1.1 23.0
7 Tyler Colvin 2.9 1.4
8 Mike Baxter 1.9 1.3
9 Josh Alley 2.4 No MLB
10 Ryan Schimpf 1.4 No MLB

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KATOH’s Top Undrafted College Players

On Friday, I published a post projecting the players taken on day one of the draft. On Saturday, I did the same for the players taken on day two. And yesterday, I did the same for those players selected on day three. Over 1,200 players were drafted across 40 rounds in this year’s draft. But KATOH still managed to find a few mildly interesting players who weren’t selected. Below, you’ll find the seven draft-eligible but undrafted players with the best projections. As a reminder, this analysis covers the following conferences: AAC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big West, Pac 12 and SEC. I expect a few of these guys will sign as undrafted free agents in the coming weeks.

*****

Anthony Papio, RSr., OF, Maryland

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 1.0

Papio had a solid season as a redshirt senior. I should note that his projection is partly due to a quirk with my model. The Big 10 model includes a variable that makes it slightly less harsh on older players. But since Papio’s the rare 23-year-old college player, it perhaps credits him a bit more than it should. Still, an .800 OPS with some speed in the Big 10 ain’t bad.

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Projecting the College Players Taken on Day Three of the Draft

On Friday, I published a post projecting the players taken on day one of the draft. On Saturday, I did the same for the players taken on day two. Let’s see what my math says about the college players taken on day three of draft, which covered rounds 11-40. The vast majority of these players will flame out in the minor leagues over the next couple of years, and you’ll never hear from them again. But at least a few of them will go on to play in the big leagues.

As a reminder, I only have projections for college players who logged at least 100 plate appearances or batters faced in select major NCAA conferences this year, including the: AAC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big West, Pac 12 and SEC. I do not have projections for high-school players.

Below, you’ll find thoughts on some players of note from rounds 11-40, followed by a giant, sortable table with projections for all drafted players for whom I have projections. The cumulative WAR projections will probably feel a bit low to you. They feel low to me too. For this reason, I recommend you don’t take the projections themselves literally, but instead use them to compare draftees to other draftees.

*****

337. Chad Donato, RHP, Houston

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 2.1

Donato pitched excellently in West Virginia’s rotation. His strikeout- and walk-rate differential was among the best for starters in major conferences. The Astros have several KATOH darlings in this group. Houston’s front office has either hacked my computer or is doing something similar to what I’m doing.

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Projecting the College Players Taken on Day Two of the Draft

Yesterday, I published a post projecting the players taken on day one of the draft. Between then and now, an additional 239 players were drafted. Let’s take a look at what my math says about some of those players. As a reminder, I only have projections for college players who logged at least 100 plate appearances or batters faced in select major NCAA conferences this year, including the: AAC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big West, Pac 12 and SEC. I do not have projections for high school players.

Below, you’ll find thoughts on some players of note from rounds 3-10, followed by a giant, sortable table with projections for all drafted players for whom I have projections. The cumulative WAR projections will probably feel a bit low to you. They feel low to me too. For this reason, I recommend you don’t take the projections themselves literally, but instead use them to compare draftees to other draftees. Read the rest of this entry »


Projecting the College Players Taken on Day One of the Draft

As you’re probably aware, the first two rounds of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft took place last night. With the first 77 picks off the board, let’s take a look at what my KATOH projection system has to say about the college players from the major conferences who were taken thus far. I’ll be back with projections for the remaining players once we know where they’re going.

These projections are far from gospel. Scouting the stat line is always dangerous. It’s even more dangerous than usual at the college level, where the samples are small, the players are raw, and the quality of opposing pitching runs the gamut. Nonetheless, performance is often an overlooked component of prospect evaluation, and the players who outperform expectations in college and the minors often go on to do the same in the big leagues.

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Kyle Lewis and the Elite Small-Conference Draft Prospect

The amateur draft is just one day away, and it’s still unclear whom the Phillies plan to take first overall. One player who’s vaulted himself into top-five consideration, and might even be in the mix for 1-1, is Kyle Lewis, an outfielder from Mercer University. Lewis’ stat line is about as good you’ll see from a college hitter: .395/.535/.731. But there’s a catch: he’s a product of the Southern Conference, which churns out very few big leaguers and features a rather low level of competition.

Lewis’ competition level makes it a bit difficult to gauge just how good he is, especially from a statistical standpoint. Yes, .395/.535/.731 is a very good stat line, but it isn’t immediately clear how that compares to Corey Ray’s .319/.396/.562 performance in the ACC — a conference that is likely chock-full of future professional ballplayers.

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2016 Draft: Kyle Lewis Swings Way to Top-Five Consideration

After a breakthrough summer in the Cape Cod League, Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis entered the spring as a potential first-round pick and has managed to dramatically improve his stock over the course of the season. He’s among the country’s leading hitters with a .411/.545/.729 line, 17 homers and 61 walks against 43 strikeouts at the time of this publication, numbers that helped him win the Southern Conference Player of the Year Award for the second straight season. With elite performance to back up five-tool promise and one of the best swings in the class, he’s in the conversation to be one of the first five players off the draft board.

I saw Lewis this past weekend when the Bears traveled to North Carolina for their regular-season series finale at UNC-Greensboro. The video below offers two angles from batting practice and a couple throws from center field, concluding with his first three plate appearances of the series. Other draft follows from this series get their own blurbs at the end.

Physical Description

Playing in the Southern Conference, Lewis looks pretty different from everyone else on the field. He’s listed at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, and features a high-waisted, athletic build that should add another 15 pounds or so. He shows fast-twitch ability in all phases, coupling athletic movements in the box with fluid actions in the field.

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Will Craig’s Power Bat Buoys 2016 Draft Stock

In a draft year that’s churning out a better college hitting crop than the industry expected before the season began, Wake Forest infielder Will Craig is another such college hitting prospect that’s making a strong case for a top-two-rounds selection.

I saw Craig this weekend when the Demon Deacons visited N.C. State for a three-game series that included a rare Monday night game, which aired on ESPNU. He’s a high follow mostly for his bat, and he’s done nothing but rake since he arrived in Winston-Salem. As of publication, he’s comically slashing .466/.581/.909, placing him inside the nation’s top five in all three categories. Perhaps then it’s no wonder that he surfaces as the ACC’s top draft-eligible batter in Carson Cistulli’s latest installment of top college players by (maybe) predictive stats.

The video below moves from batting practice to pre-game infield to game swings. For the sake of an evaluation, it helped that he was facing N.C. State left-hander Ryan Williamson, a solid pro prospect who gets his own video and bullet point further down. Both videos also feature receiving demonstrations by N.C. State catcher Andrew Knizner, another solid prospect who gets mentioned in this space.

Physical Description

Craig looks every bit of his listed 6-foot-3, 235-pound constitution, a big-bodied frame that has reached its full development. His natural strength is concealed by a soft, thick build that’s supported by a pair of tree trunks. He also has unexpected rotational athleticism for such a big dude, which is more apparent when he’s pitching than when he’s doing anything else. Ideally, his pro training regimen trims 10-15 pounds and replaces the void with muscle. Craig was drafted by the Royals in the 37th round of the 2013 draft out of Science Hill HS (Tenn.), where he teamed with Tigers lefty Daniel Norris.

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The Top College Players by (Maybe) Predictive Stats

On multiple occasions last year, the author published a statistical report designed to serve as a mostly responsible shorthand for people who, like the author, possess more enthusiasm for collegiate baseball than expert knowledge of it. Those reports integrated concepts central to much of the analysis found at FanGraphs — regarding sample size and regression, for example — to provide something not unlike a “true talent” leaderboard for hitters and pitchers in select conferences.

In recent weeks, I’ve revisited for the 2016 college campaign. What follows represents the most current installment of a possibly infinite series.

As in the original edition of this same thing, what I’ve done here is to utilize principles introduced by Chris Mitchell on forecasting future major-league performance with minor-league stats.

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The Top College Players by (Maybe) Predictive Stats

On multiple occasions last year, the author published a statistical report designed to serve as a mostly responsible shorthand for people who, like the author, possess more enthusiasm for collegiate baseball than expert knowledge of it. Those reports integrated concepts central to much of the analysis found at FanGraphs — regarding sample size and regression, for example — to provide something not unlike a “true talent” leaderboard for hitters and pitchers in select conferences.

Two weeks ago, I published the first such report for the 2016 college campaign; last week, the second one. What follows represents the third installment of a possibly infinite series.

As in the original edition of this same thing, what I’ve done here is to utilize principles introduced by Chris Mitchell on forecasting future major-league performance with minor-league stats.

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Tennessee’s Nick Senzel Among 2016 Draft’s Top Bats

Infielder Nick Senzel has been an impact player for Tennessee ever since he arrived in Knoxville, but his draft stock took a major jump forward last summer when he was named MVP of the Cape Cod League and positioned himself as a first-round candidate heading into the spring.

He’s built on his momentum in his first 12 games this season, hitting .396/.500/.521 while answering some questions about his glove and where he’ll play at the next level. I caught Senzel when the Volunteers visited East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., as part of the 13th Annual Keith LeClair Classic last weekend. The video below starts with his pre-game batting practice in ECU’s indoor cages, then moves to pre-game infield and concludes with his first three at-bats from the game.

Physical Description

Listed at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Senzel has a muscular, pro build that looks about five to 10 pounds denser. He’s barrel-chested with broad shoulders and, in general, well developed and proportioned. Though he won’t get much stronger than he already is, you probably don’t want him to, either, as added mass would just limit his flexibility and medium-twitch athleticism.

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Lefty Jake DeVries Gives Air Force a High Draft Follow

There have been just three Air Force draftees since 2007, with the most recent coming last year when senior right-hander Ben Yokley was signed by the Cardinals as a 29th-round selection. Now the program is entering unchartered territory thanks to two pitchers in junior left-hander Jake DeVries and junior right-hander Griffin Jax, each of whom will command more scouting attention this spring than any Air Force player of the last decade.

I first wrote about DeVries in October after he flashed some intriguing pitching tools in the Cape Cod League last summer. As I mentioned then, Air Force players have obligations that supersede baseball and make it more complicated for teams to sign them out of the draft. This is particularly the case for players who aren’t seniors, as noted by Brent Briggeman in a piece recently for The Gazette of Colorado Springs. DeVries and Jax, explains Briggeman, basically have three options: they can (a) sign a pro contract and remain at Air Force to graduate while playing baseball on available leave time until the academy grants them a release from active duty, (b) resign from the academy and face two years of active duty as an enlisted airman, or (c) come back for their senior year like Yokley did, sign the contract, and then balance pro ball with combat training.

Briggeman notes that neither DeVries nor Jax has asked out of their commitments, though their performance this spring might change the situation. I’m told that academy leadership doesn’t have a thorough understanding of how the draft process works and may be uncomfortable setting a precedent in letting players out of those commitments. This is obviously a fluid situation, but the takeaway for now is that teams will have to clear administrative hurdles to sign either pitcher away from their senior seasons at the academy.

I got an up-close look at both DeVries and Jax this past weekend when Air Force and Navy squared off in a three-game series known as the Freedom Classic in Kinston, N.C. The video of DeVries is from the first inning of his start on Saturday, and the video of Jax (further down) is from the third inning of his start on Friday.

Jake DeVries

DeVries has most of the baseline attributes you want to see in starting pitcher prospect. He’s big, throws with little effort, has plus velocity and can spin a breaking ball. The biggest question mark surrounds his ability to throw strikes. Let’s talk about the pros first.

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2016 MLB Draft: Louisville’s Corey Ray Thriving Atop Order

One week into the college baseball season, Louisville head coach Dan McConnell’s decision to bat Corey Ray atop the order this year looks like it’s going to pay dividends for the next four months.

If you’re unfamiliar with what the star outfielder has done over the four games since he moved up to the leadoff spot from the three-hole last season, consider this cartoonish statline: .733 AVG (11-for-15); .750 OBP; 1.533 SLG; 1 double; 1 triple; 3 HR; 6 SB.

For sure, Louisville’s two opponents for those four games – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Eastern Kentucky – aren’t teams that we could have expected to offer much resistance. But no matter: it’s an exceptional beginning that deserves mention as the five-tool prospect looks to establish himself as the best position player in the 2016 draft class.

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Cal’s Daulton Jefferies Shows First-Round Potential in Opener

Daulton Jefferies wasn’t at the very peak of his game in California’s season opener against Duke at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Friday, but the junior right-hander still flashed the stuff that makes him an early favorite to be a first-round selection in June.

I was on hand for his first start of the year as he opposed another top draft prospect in Duke right-hander Bailey Clark. To paint a fuller picture of Jefferies’ prospect outlook, I’m mixing my takeaways from this outing with what I saw this summer when he pitched for the Team USA Collegiate National Team and ranked as my No. 13 prospect on the squad.

The video below shows all 15 pitches from the first inning of his start on Friday. He tossed six innings and gave up five hits, two runs (both unearned) with two walks and nine strikeouts.

Physical Description

Jefferies is listed at six feet and 180 pounds. He has wiry strength and still projects in spite of his stature, with room for mass through his shoulders and a lean torso that tapers off at the waist. It’s an athletic body type that’s not difficult to maintain. He also shows quick-twitch actions when fielding his position, which you’ll see at the 1:30 mark in the video.

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College Team USA Top 20 Prospects: Nos. 1-10

It will be a challenge for the 2015 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team (CNT) to match what the previous two editions of the club have achieved in terms of the draft. The 2014 CNT produced 10 first-rounders in this year’s draft, including five of the top six college players taken as well as four of the top six picks overall. The 2013 CNT also produced 10 first-rounders.

That’s why ranking the top-20 prospects on Team USA isn’t an easy exercise. The majority of the players have the tools to land in the first round, so there are a few places on this list where the talent runs together. Nevertheless, the obvious strength of this year’s team was power arms with pitchability. The weakness was the lack of impact middle infielders.

Because of the length of this feature, we decided to split the list into two parts. You can see the 11th-20th ranked players and honorable mentions here.

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College Team USA Top 20 Prospects: Nos. 11-20

It will be a challenge for the 2015 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team (CNT) to match what the previous two editions of the club have achieved in terms of the draft. The 2014 CNT produced 10 first-rounders in this year’s draft, including five of the top six college players taken as well as four of the top six picks overall. The 2013 CNT also produced 10 first-rounders.

That’s why ranking the top-20 prospects on Team USA isn’t an easy exercise. The majority of the players have the tools to land in the first round, so there are a few places on this list where the talent runs together. Nevertheless, the obvious strength of this year’s team was power arms with pitchability. The weakness was the lack of impact middle infielders.

Because of the length of this feature, we decided to split the list into two parts. The top 10 prospects will be coming tomorrow.

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Potentially Valuable Pitchers Taken in Rounds Two to Eight

On Monday, I took a look at the hitters that KATOH liked the most from rounds two through eight of last week’s amateur draft. I was planning to follow up with a complementary piece on pitchers the following day, but was rudely interrupted when basically all of the top prospects were called up to the major leagues. But now that we have a respite from this year’s onslaught of prospect call-ups, we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming. Here are a few of the pitchers, in order of projected WAR, who slipped past the first round but caught KATOH’s eye.

Garrett Cleavinger, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
Draft Round: 3rd
Projected WAR: 6.6

Garrett Cleavinger was positively dominant in his three years in the University of Oregon’s bullpen. The hard-throwing lefty pitched to a 1.94 ERA over his college career, and struck out an impressive 13.3 batters per nine innings. He was most dominant of all in his junior campaign, where he struck out a whopping 14.9 batters per nine, while walking a manageable 3.8. It’s well known that relief pitchers are generally less valuable than starters. But among relievers, Cleavinger’s performance was about as good as they come. The fact that he pitched in the Pac-12 conference also works in his favor.

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Potentially Valuable Hitters Taken in Rounds Two to Eight

Last week, I walked through the KATOH projections for each of the college players taken in the first round of this year’s amateur draft. The first round is obviously the most important one, as it produces the largest share of the game’s productive players. Nonetheless, the proceeding rounds also generate their fair share of quality major leaguers. So, today, I’m going to take a look at some of the hitters selected in rounds two through eight who rated favorably according to my KATOH system.

David Thompson, 3B, New York Mets
Draft Round: 4th
KATOH Projection: 5.7 WAR

After mediocre freshman and sophomore seasons at Miami, David Thompson broke out in a big way in 2015. The third baseman smashed 19 homers and 18 doubles in 64 games on his way to a .333/.445/.658 showing in the ACC. Thompson’s breakout likely had something to do with his finally being healthy. Originally a two-sport star at Miami, Thompson opted to give up on his football career following a litany of injuries. Between undergoing four surgeries, while also trying to play both baseball and football, it’s easy to see why he only managed an .800 OPS as an underclassman. It’s pretty rare for a player to run an ISO north of .300 while striking out in fewer than 10% of his trips to the plate, especially in the ACC, which happens to be one of the best college conferences in the country.

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Enigmatic Skye Bolt Leads UNC’s Draft Crop

It’s a pretty average year for draft-eligible talent in North Carolina, with Duke right hander Michael Matuella leading the way as a possible first-round pick, despite undergoing Tommy John surgery after just a few starts. West Columbus High School center fielder Eric Jenkins is the state’s second-best prospect, a 70-grade runner with projectable hitting tools who should go inside the top two rounds.

After those two come a sheaf (the correct collective noun for prospects) of players who grade similarly talent-wise after the third round. Among them are UNC center fielder Skye Bolt, Charlotte Christian HS right-hander Jackson Kowar, Marvin Ridge HS left-hander Max Wotell, Southpoint HS left-hander Garrett Davila and Greenfield HS outfielder Isaiah White.

UNC, the state’s top exporter of pro prospects, once again runs deep with draft talent, even if it won’t produce a first-rounder as it has five times in the last six years. Of the potentially seven Tar Heels who could be signing pro contracts in the coming weeks, Bolt is the most interesting (and mercurial), and there are a few more who show enough promise to justify clogging up the FanGraphs servers with the following words and moving pictures.

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